Francis Collins isn't just another scientist with a book about evolution. From 1992 to 2008 he was the head over the Human Genome project. In 2009, Pr...moreFrancis Collins isn't just another scientist with a book about evolution. From 1992 to 2008 he was the head over the Human Genome project. In 2009, President Obama appointed him Director of the NIH, National Institute of Health. He obtained a PHD in Physical Chemistry from Yale and an MD from UNC. He is a convert to Christianity from agnosticism & atheism. He is also a Theistic Evolutionist, or what he calls, BioLogos (http://biologos.org/)
I read this book because I've long been a creationist. I came to this conclusion in High School just after becoming a Christian. For me, evolution was very hard to reconcile with the Christian faith, and the literal creation story. So, I set out to understand, as best a high school kid could, how compelling either side of the story was. If evolution was scientifically compelling, I was prepared to accept it and reject God. If the evidence pointed to a god, I was prepared for that as well.
That's how I discovered the author and lecturer Dr. A.E. WilderSmith (http://www.wildersmith.org/). Wildersmith held 3 PHDs (Ph.D. (Physical Organic Chemistry), Dr. es Science (Chemotherapy), D. Sc.(Natural Sciences)). "In his books and tapes, Arthur Edward Wilder-Smith stressed the importance of information in biology, stressing that the materialist’s formula for the life, energy + matter + time, was deficient because it left out the factor information. He convincingly argued that the information in DNA, in its translation, had to follow a language convention which presupposed an agreement between parties needing to communicate with one another. For example, he explained how SOS is a meaningless sequence of letters unless there has been a convention (a “coming together” agreement, in advance) that it is a signal for distress. Similarly, the DNA triplet codon for alanine, GCC, looks and smells nothing like alanine, by itself. Unless both the translation mechanism (the ribosome) and the DNA code both have a convention that GCC means alanine, it means nothing at all. This, he explained, was prima facie evidence of intelligent design." http://www.creationsafaris.com/wgcs_5...
Collins argues that evolution is not only plausible, it is a fact and only serious biologists believe in evolution. To be a creationist is intellectually bankrupt. "Darwin’s framework of variation and natural selection," but especially Darwin’s picture of a Tree of Life—the common ancestry of all organisms on Earth— "is unquestionably correct" (141). Universal common descent by natural processes is scientifically non‐negotiable. The theory of neo‐Darwinian evolution cannot rationally be doubted by any educated person." So, he's a Christian arguing against Intelligent Design. I am intrigued.
Collins makes several assertions:
- Evolution is evident in the fossil record - The Cambrian Explosion, the strata of earth that suddenly contains evidence of life, does not pose a contradiction to the long timelines necessary for evolution - Evolution does not contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics - The process of evolution can be observed in the genetic relationship maps which compare species DNA codes from one to another. There, mutational relationships can be observed and matched closely with Charles Darwin's Tree of Life observations. - DNA contains junk DNA, or a build-up of useless DNA over the millennia that would be expected in an evolutionary world - Evolution and Theistic Creation can be compatible concepts - The Moral Code is unique to humans, has no explanation from Evolutionary processes and points to a creator - Creationism or Intelligent Design seems to depend on a "God of the gaps" approach to scientific inquiry
First, I found his book very easy for the lay person to read. He doesn't make your eyes glaze over with too much scientific jargon. The story of his conversion to Christianity and struggling himself with forgiveness was particularly heartfelt.
However, I was also a little disappointed. My expectations were for in-depth scientific explanation. Those expectations may have been too high for a book meant for the general public. There are a number of videos online where Dr. Collins explains his views in more detail (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nJl3d...).
Collins is a brilliant scientist and I don't purport to know a fraction more than this man about anything. His perspectives should not be disregarded out of hand. However, my initial reactions to most of his claims against ID (Intelligent Design) are largely unconvinced at this point.
I’ve matured a lot since those High School days. Collins has shown me that if Evolution is true, it does not necessarily negate a reasonable belief in God, “Theistic evolution is the dominant position of serious biologists who are also serious believers. That includes Asa Gray, Darwin’s chief advocate in the United States, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, the twentieth‐century architect of evolutionary theory. It is the view espoused by many Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, including Pope John Paul II. (pg. 199)”
This does not mean the question of origins is irrelevant or childish. Actually, I think it’s one of the most profound questions of our time. If evolution is true, and the Biblical account of creation is no longer interpreted literally would our perspectives on a host of issues be subject to change?
- Abortion & Embryonic Cells: if prehistoric man “evolved” into a man one day, with a soul… then our view of when a person becomes a person also changes doesn’t it? Are sociopaths human or just animals? Is a fetus a person or is it only at the first point of emotional imprint that a human exists there?
- Homosexuality: What if there’s a homosexual gene discovered? Would you then be for gay marriage? Could your interpretation of Biblical texts change?
- The Poor: Would a true evolution increase or decrease your willingness to love on the poor and disenfranchised? Or, would you see a natural reason to dominate and rule over them?
- Political Perspectives: If evolution is true, would you take a more progressive view of the constitution? Would you be less likely to be a strict-constructionist?
- Education: How much more would you value the role of education in society and in your own life? Would it become your single most valuable resource?
- Taxes, Health Care, and Social Safety Nets: To be a strong society and community, do the strong have a responsibility to care for the weak? Is it in everyone's best interest in the long run?
- Crime and Punishment: Would you be more likely to support behavioral modification if you believed evolution to be true? Would your attitudes towards crime be less about punishment & justice and more about rehabilitation?
I don’t have any answers, just more questions. :) (less)